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Yard sale shopping 101

by on Mar 5, 2007

My husband would say I never met a yard sale I didn’t like, but that’s not exactly true. I’ve met plenty of yard sales with craptastic stuff in it that I really wish I hadn’t even bothered to slow my car down to look at, much less stop and get out.


Even so, I do love me a good yard sale- I saw my first of the season just this past weekend, and if I hadn’t been rushing to actually get somewhere, I would have stopped. Alas, I didn’t have the time, so it was probably my loss. Some of my best stuff I’ve gotten at yard sales.


I got three of these blue chairs of doom for TEN BUCKS!! 


Over the years, I’ve developed a kind of knack for haggling at yard sales. Americans, by and large, have not learned the art of haggling. You go to Target, they say it costs $3.99, you pay your money and go on with your day.


Yard sales are not the same. To really enjoy the yard sale experience, you must haggle. Here is some insight on the art of the haggle.


Don’t insult people’s stuff.

Conventional haggling wisdom tells you to act like you’re not all that interested in the stuff. Act like you don’t want it, don’t need it. I say that’s hooey. You might get away with that at antique shops, but you have to keep in mind, the stuff they’re selling at yard sales is stuff the people used to own, and often, used to love. Tell the people, “I really dig this (item). It would fit in perfectly in my (room of the house you’d put it in.)”


Carry cash.


I bring tons of cash to yard sales and keep it in various places on my person.  I keep $100 in the back of my wallet, $50 in a zippered part of my wallet, $20 in my right pocket and $10 in my right pocket. I learned this trick quite by accident- I got three of those fab blue chairs up there for $10. I was at a yard sale and was down to my last ten bucks. I saw the blue chairs and knew I wanted them for my back porch. I approached the seller and explained that I was down to my last $10, but I’d love those chairs. Lo and behold, they sold them to me for the $10. (They were originally asking $30!) 


Drive your crummiest car to the yard sale.


A long time ago, I was standing with a friend of mine who ran her own catering company. She was waiting on some people to show up to talk about the wedding they wanted her to cater. We watched out the window as they pulled up in their brand new Lexus SUV. She grinned at me and said, “The price just went up.” 

Getting a good deal at a yard sale works much the same way. If you drive your 1978 Ford Hoopty to the yard sale and tell them it’s your last $10, they’re going to believe you. If you show up in your brand spanking new Beemer, they’re not going to believe you. 


Don’t insult their asking price.


A lot of people deliberately overprice their yard sale stuff, knowing how people love to haggle.  But if you ask a price that is too low, you’ll insult them and you’ll never get the items at the price you want. I generally give them a price that’s roughly 60% of their asking price. If they’re asking $100, I’ll offer $60. When they come back with $75, that’s when I tell them I’m down to my last $70. 


Get it at rock bottom. 


If you’re willing to lose the item, this method sometimes works.  Tell the person your rock-bottom price for the item. (for this, I’ll usually offer about 30% of what they were originally asking) Give them your card and say, “Hey, if you don’t sell it and still have it at the end of the day, I’ll pay X amount for it.” Now, I’ve tried this a few times, and have never had the people call me back and offer me the item, ever. But it always seemed to work for my grandmother. Perhaps she’s more likeable than I am. I saw her get a buffet for $50 that way- once she cleaned it up, she had it appraised and it appraised for $1500. So, this method does work, but not for me. 


I am so glad it’s nearly yard sale time again! I’d love to hear your yard sale suggestions! 

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